Motorola took something away, and should give it back… quickly. Normally, software updates are a good thing. Some on T-Mobile however, may not be so happy with this latest one.
After posting our last article on the LG Leon, a $69 smartphone with LTE Band 12, we started getting reports from Moto E owners. They followed up on our mentions that the XT1527 T-Mobile/unlocked version of the device had LTE Band 12, whereas other Moto E variants did not.
It turns out that last month’s Android 5.1 upgrade actually removed LTE Band 12 from the phone’s radio firmware – and they are claiming it was at the behest of T-Mobile USA itself.
The reason, Motorola argues, is that the Moto E does not support VoLTE, and T-Mobile is only allowing VoLTE-capable phones to use LTE Band 12. T-Mobile, according to Motorola, argues that if a phone had a strong LTE Band 12 signal – but no UMTS or GSM signal, that the phone would hold onto the strong LTE Band 12 signal and not be able to make a phone call.
This is actually not isolated to Band 12. This happens quite a bit on non-VoLTE phones today with other LTE bands – and on CDMA/LTE hybrid carriers like Verizon Wireless and Sprint. If the phone only has an LTE signal, it may not make or receive a voice call if that secondary signal is out of range.
It appears T-Mobile is really concerned that someone in a rural area might see five bars of LTE signal, and think that their phone is capable of making/receiving calls, when it in fact isn’t.
Really though this is a terrible solution to the problem. First, consumers that were fine with this scenario have no way to opt-out. The neutering of this feature isn’t even in the update’s release notes – something required by law when removing functionality from a device.
Worse, this could easily be resolved by adding VoLTE. The second-generation Moto E is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 smartphone – and could easily handle the T-Mobile VoLTE stack. It appears this was a marketing decision to position the Moto E as a lower-cost device, and try to push VoLTE-interested consumers into more expensive devices. Indeed, under normal circumstances, devices like the LG Leon are more expensive than the second-gen Moto E on T-Mobile.
Considering that this very scenario that T-Mobile describes, happens thousands of times per day on other carriers – it’s specious at best that this rule should apply to Band 12, a band that will ideally save customers who are thinking of jumping ship due to poor coverage. And tech-savvy users can make VoIP calls through Skype and other services.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, this is a lame carrier move by T-Mobile, and one that an exception for the Moto E can, and should, be made for. Forcing users to hack their phone into downgrading to Android 5.0.2, is not an acceptable solution.
Motorola should either add T-Mobile VoLTE to the second-gen Moto E, or restore Band 12 functionality. And T-Mobile should not object to Band 12 being enabled on any capable device… ever.
Both T-Mobile USA and Motorola Mobility were provided copies of this article as it went to press. If they choose to respond, we’ll share their response with you here.